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Second lawsuit filed over PFAS contamination in Fairfield

Property owners sue Maine paper mills for widespread PFAS contamination in well waters

FAIRFIELD, Maine — Property owners in Fairfield who were exposed to chemicals known as PFAS are suing the major players in Maine's paper industry for continuing their toxic nightmare.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Somerset County Superior Court asks for unspecified financial damages and medical monitoring on behalf of six property owners.

The source of contamination is leftover bio-solids from the paper making spread as fertilizer on farmland. The industrial compounds seeped into nearby private wells for decades.

This is the second lawsuit to be filed this year in connection with the PFAS contamination in Fairfield. A class-action lawsuit against the owners of paper mills is pending in Federal court in Bangor.

RELATED: More than a dozen paper companies and mills named in class action lawsuit

In June, a spokeswoman for Sappi North America strongly denied the allegations in the class-action lawsuit.  

"Sappi strongly disputes any contention that Sappi’s Somerset mill is the source of PFAS contamination in Fairfield. Sappi is well known for its record of environmental stewardship at the Somerset mill and at all of its manufacturing facilities," spokesperson Olga Karagiannis said in a statement.

Troy Reny and his fiance, Ashley Gooldrup are among the property owners who want the companies held responsible for the damage to the property value of their home.

"Even if we want to sell the place who is going to come in and buy a place with poisonous water," Reny said.

Their dreams of raising children on their six-acre property were crushed.

"Who would be be raising a child here? I barely want to raise myself here," Gooldrup said.

RELATED: Unraveling a toxic nightmare: More wells show 'forever chemicals'

PFAS levels in some private wells along the Howe Road in Fairfield are nearly one-thousand times higher than Maine's screening levels for PFAS in drinking water. 

Federal health studies have linked the compounds known as forever chemicals, because they don't break down in the human body and environment, to a number of health problems including organ cancers.

The lawsuit alleges the owners of more than 12 paper mills, manufacturing plants, and a waste facility are responsible for the widespread contamination. 

Those facilities include Sappi's Somerset Mill, Northern Paper, Kimberly Clark, Scott Paper, Pine Tree Waste Inc., and the Huhtamaki paper packaging plant in Waterville. Attorneys say all of the plants used toxic compounds in the manufacturing process for decades. 

Russ Abney is an attorney with Watts Guerra LLP, a law firm based in San Antonio, Texas that has filed litigation in other communities across the country dealing with PFAS contamination. Abney is working with the Portland-based firm, Terry Garmey & Associates. 

"They were generating this waste, putting it into the sludge which was used as bio solids by farmers which contaminated the fields," Abney said.

Attorneys also plan to investigate what manufacturers supplied the PFAS chemicals.  Mikal Watts is one of the founding partners of Watts Guerra LLP.

"We need to know who they bought these forever chemicals from and can help these local companies clean it up," Watts said.

More lawsuits are expected to be filed against paper companies in the near future. Attorneys are also asking for medical monitoring and screenings for impacted residents.  

NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to several of the companies listed in the lawsuit but did not receive a response. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is continuing to investigate PFAS contamination in Fairfield and other surrounding communities. For more information go here.

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